CNC Machining Explained

At API/AMS, we talk a lot about CNC machining and our expertise around that term. You may be wondering what exactly we refer to when we talk about CNC machining. Fear not, we are here to teach you and explain exactly what it is, and why it’s so important in the precision machining, routing, and milling industries.

How Numerical Control Works

At its base level, CNC machining is nothing more than a computer-aided process of controlling machine tools. CNC is short for Computer Numerical Control, which is where a computer will take the design (usually done in a CAD or Computer Aided Design program) and convert it into numbers. These numbers are turned into coordinates, like on a graph, and they tell the machine where to cut or turn. A design can have thousands and thousands of different coordinates (think of them as an X, Y, and Z axis on a 3D graph) and the CNC machine can quickly transform that info into the path, speed, and feed rate that it works on.

It’s All In The Code

Just like personal computers use computer code like C++ or Java, CNC has its own machining language called G-code that we can use to tell the CNC machine everything from velocity, to location, to feed rates and more. Since the computer controls the precise positions and speed, it can produce objects quickly and in higher detail than a human aided process could ever hope for.

The first step in creating a CNC machined product is using a CAD or CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) drawing or schematic. From that the G-code is created and fed into the CNC machine who will use it to manufacture the part intended. The CNC operator merely has to load that code or program into the machine and test it out. At API/AMS we take pride in making sure we do the best work possible and this trail run is paramount in our dedication to customer quality. Many people refer to this test run as “cutting air”, and it help us make sure that the tool is in the proper position, and that the speeds and cuts do not damage any parts or the machines themselves.

One of the best advantages of CNC machining is the ability to precisely replicate a piece over and over again. It is also extremely useful when designing and creating multifaceted, intricate, and complex shapes or designs that just could not be done with a manual method. In addition, the CNC Machines can be used on a wide variety material options including metal and plastic, offer quick turnaround times, can run 24/7, and can create with an accuracy up to .005″.

From Punched Tape to Computers

The Numerical Control system first popped up in the 1940s and early 1950s. At that time, they used punched tape that would move their motorized controls. As the evolution of computers sped up in preceding decades, so did the process of CNC machines. Today, CNC machine can include everything from Laser and Plasma cutting, Mills, Lathes, Electric Discharge Machining, and Water Jet cutting, and they now use some of the latest computer technology available.

American Precision Industries and American Metal Specialties are proud to offer the most technologically advanced operating systems for CNC routing, CNC milling, and many other CNC machine needs. Call one of our three locations around the Portland, Hillsboro and Tigard areas to get started today.